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BlackMagic Design Ursa Mini Broadcast: First Thoughts

There is nothing I like more than getting new gear and seeing what it can do. I love the challenge of figuring it out and making it do things I have didn’t know it was capable of. A couple weeks ago, I got my hands on a BlackMagic Design (BMD) Ursa Broadcast. The folks at BMD sent it to us to use for our coverage of NAB 18 next week.BMD01

I was a little nervous when they told me they were sending me the camera because BMD has done a great job of allowing you to build the camera you need through accessories. So the camera alone was a little scary. (Primarily because I am not independently wealthy and feared I would not be able to really put the camera to the test because I like to pay my mortgage…) Those fears were put to bed as soon as I opened the package.

BMD sent me a great setup that would work in the education setting extremely well. The complete package for this review includes:
- BlackMagic URSA Broadcast
- BlackMagic EF Lens Mount
- BlackMagic URSA Viewfinder
- BlackMagic URSA Vlock Battery Plate
- BlackMagic Shoulder Mount Kit

I paired this kit with my variety of EF lenses and felt like I could shoot anything I wanted. I do have to say that if you purchase a kit similar to this, make sure you have every hand driven tool in the toolbox. As I assembled the kit, it felt like every package I opened had a different sized screw or a different pattern. Assembly was pretty simple and intuitive.

BMD02I immediately took the B4 mount off the camera and connected the EF mount. This was a little scary considering the instructions were very clear not to over torque the screws. There were extra shims with the EF mount but I didn’t need those but immediately began questioning if I did.

The shoulder mount, viewfinder, and battery plate were easy to place and secure. Again, just make sure you use the right screws to start with so you don’t get frustrated holding the pieces in place while trying to change the screws - not that I would know that feeling at all….

Once the rig was built, I had to hold myself back from throwing a card in the camera and start shooting. I wanted to “discover” the camera before I used it. Unlike most cameras on this level, most of the controls are not buried in the menu. Most of the controls needed for day to day shooting are not only on the body of the camera but on the left side of the camera. This allows the operator to see the controls while in operation instead of reaching all over the body of the camera to try to find the switch or knob you are looking for.

While surveyed the body of the camera, I realized that there are very few options that I use on a day to day basis that aren’t located where I can access easily while I shoot. Everything from 3 stops of ND filters through audio control are within inches of where I would set up to monitor the shot.

After about 15 minutes, which seemed like an eternity, I finally powered on the camera. The built in monitor does a good job considering its size. It also reminded me why I am so happy that most of the day to day controls are on the outside of the camera. A 4 inch touch screen is great if you have pencils for fingers but I am not blessed with such but the screen works well for what it’s used for.

There aren’t a ton of controls to be changed using the monitor. The major decisions such as audio mix, video outputs, monitor selections, and other setup options are all accessible on the monitor through the menu controls. I really appreciate the video and audio control options in the menu.

The “Record” options in the menu are great. First, the selection areas on the touch screen are shockingly large but the best part is how quickly the camera changes the settings and can get back to shooting. This allowed me to use the camera set upBMD03 as a teachable moment. I placed a 16 GB SD card in the camera and changed to the different settings. The students were blown away that a 16 GB memory card would record only 41 seconds of footage on the camera’s highest setting (RAW Lossless Ultra HD). I really think this is something that they don’t truly understand - how big professional quality video files are and more importantly- why they are that size! See the table below for the settings and times for the 16GB card.

The audio setting for the camera are also pretty amazing. Not only can you choose from the built in the mics on the camera, but you can choose to use both as stereo or mono or a combination of both. Also you have options for XLR inputs or no audio at all! Also in the menu for audio is a VU meter and a simple slider to control levels for each input.

Now that I have proven I have the strength to not just jump out and shoot I am ready to do. I do like having the focus assist on the LCD monitor as well as on the BMD04eyepiece. I also really like the option to turn it off on either. All of the outputs for monitoring have the option for clean feed or a variety of guides and assists.

All of my concerns for the BlackMagic Design have been put to ease with my own personal training session and to be honest, NAB can’t get her quick enough. I am excited to see how the camera handles the different lighting scenarios at NAB. I am also excited to see what the picture looks like as we edit the different elements we are shooting while at NAB. I am afraid the price point may scare some people away from the camera but in terms of affordability and options, I haven’t found anything that competes. I am not saying you should try to stock the shelves with 20 but I do think that 1 or 2 of these will go a long way to prepare those students who want to make the jump to “real” cameras.